Sunday, 16 June 2013

Can We Change Politics? Yes We Can

(My Comment Piece posted on "The Politico Daily Blog")

We are living in a generation where arguably politicians are as out of touch with the electorate as they have been at any point in history since universal suffrage. With the expenses scandal making way to the Leveson enquiry and most  recently we have seen the lobbying scandal too, the public is constantly seeing messages of how disengaged politicians are to the life they are living day after day.

Politics has become stale with the same old “politicos” brought out onto panel debates in the media talking in abstracts and failing to make a coherent message that connects with voters outside of the usual tribalism that exists within our political system. In the middle of this we have seen the rise of reactionary parties such as UKIP who have gained popularity in the polls feeding off disillusionment, the impact of economic climate we live in and the generational shift within conservative politics.

Despite the shake up we have seen because of the political scandals and the introduction of the UKIP wild card to the mix the mainstream red yellow and blue political juggernauts have failed to run at full throttle. They have failed to engage the disillusioned electorate and inject the energy needed to get the knockout punch at the general election in 2015.

All the main parties still believe working harder and faster on the same old tried methods of political engagement is what will get them over the line come election day. This involves carbon copy leaflets often full of party branding, big think campaign messages drawn up in the Westminster bubble, all at the end of the day looking very similar and in a creative sense “grey”. Party Political broadcasts roll out of party HQs all glossy and new and PR consultants very happy with themselves that they have produced the “real deal” the package that will give a real boost to the party in the polls. But back in the real world how many people actually watch party political broadcasts? And of those that do what impact do they genuinely have on them? Id propose the truth is very few people take notice of the broadcasts that now fall into insignificance when it comes to the 100+ channels now available in most people’s homes. Of those people that do end up watching party political broadcasts the same old political spin repackaged with different issues and played out with a senior politician doing a voice over to a pre prepared script, probably turns most people off politics and politicians even more.

It’s often said and for good reason that politics is the home to political careerists, too many ex parliamentary researchers and people who spend their whole life in the Westminster bubble, these are the people that end up round the table when it comes to developing policy, developing campaigns and shaping messages and so the vicious circle continues.

But does it have to continue? Can we break the cycle?

As famously said by US President Barack Obama “Yes we can”. As a Conservative I want to see a conservative majority elected in 2015 and to do this I believe we have to change politics and solve the issues all parties face. We need to change the playing field of the political arena. The election is not going to be won at the policy tables of Whitehall or the big think groups made up of political party regulars but at the dinner tables, on the computers,  on the smart phones, in the workplaces and in the communities of voters across the UK not just the Westminster square mile.

Talent needs to shine through but we need talent that brings different voices to the table, we need people who come from all backgrounds and bring their experience and connection to the electorate with them. A politician asking you to vote conservative is never going to be as strong as your friend, your brother, your neighbour or a community leader telling you they are voting for their futures by voting conservative so why don’t you too? As party membership falls we need to be making cases to people outside the party on why they should support and share our policies and our vision. We need to be involving these people (party members or not) in helping to shape our vision and let them be the ones to lead and share it in their own communities.  

 Times are changing we live in an age of social media, visualised communication and fast moving lives. The same old methods of contacting voters might not be dead but it is certainly on the wane. We have seen in the presidential elections in the USA media being used to shape a vision, develop a connection with the electorate and to encourage an emotional response on why they should vote for the candidate they are promoting. This is how we need to transform our approach when it comes to party political broadcasts and centralised communications. Over the last week I have produced a few cheap simplistic video clips using free online software. These have just been about community campaigning (Campaigning Video), sharing information about me as a person and one on loving “Wirral” where I live (I Love Wirral Video). The response has been overwhelmingly positive; they deliver clear fun messages in a way that makes people want to watch. Another example I can give is the video by republican candidate Rick Santorum “Game on” (Game On Video) it’s hard for anyone to watch this video without feeling a connection and affinity to the candidate and feel upbeat about his agenda (until you look into what that actual agenda is). Targeting DVD messages at key community members, sharing over a cup of coffee, asking them to pass it on or pass the message on can be a great way to create a buzz about key messages or a candidate in a local community, as well as improving overall people’s perceptions of politicians and the political process, in effect bring political world kicking and screaming into the modern world.

Finally candidate selection needs to be open and involve the community, planned out well in advance and be genuinely designed to involve people from across a constituency. Open Primaries are the only way we are going to reach out into constituencies where the electorate are feeling disillusioned or disconnected with the party and politics as a whole. We need to nurture talent from across the country built on their campaign, community and professional experience and break the perception that candidates are all pulled out of a group selected by CCHQ.

Our overall message needs to be about being open, engaging, energetic and based in communities standing up for voters instead of in Westminster standing up for our political parties. know the road to 2015 is going to be hard and the road to change even harder but if I am asked the question can we do it? My answer is YES WE CAN!

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